NHL 14 is easily one of the most accessible hockey games to date from EA Sports. The company took its time implementing the new Infinity Engine technology, so player movement and reaction are more realistic than ever before. Not only that, it just feels right, from skating along the ice to knocking someone down in a drag-out gloves-off fight.
Still, there are those who still need to get accustomed to what the game has to offer. Don't worry, we're here to help with some beginner's tips that will have you checking like a pro and shooting lights out in no time flat.
More Than One Way to Shoot
The first thing you'll notice with NHL 14 is that there are three styles of play. With the Skill Stick, you can shoot with the right analog stick while controlling shot direction with the left, and checking opponents by using a combination of momentum and right stick movement. With NHL 94 style controls, you've got left analog movement and two buttons – for shooting/passing – to do all your work. Finally, there's Hybrid, which combines the two so you have full functionality, but with most of the techniques assigned to buttons.
Out of the three, the NHL 94 method is simplest, and ideal for "rookies" who want to get into the on-the-ice action quickly. However, the Skill Stick set-up is still the best overall, mainly because of how you can change the volume of your shot – from a lightning quick snapshot to a more concentrated slap shot.
When it comes to shooting a goal, remember that you'll use the left analog stick for aiming. If you're taking a shot from far away, try and aim for the upper corners to get it past the goalie. If you're a little closer, though, your puck shots may go sailing over the net. Stick to a lower or side shot, and, unless they're super-receptive, you'll have no problem getting some shots in.
Practice your shots, and don't forget you can make one-timers work with your fellow team members, passing quickly to someone prepping for a mother of a slap shot. It works more often than you might think.
When it comes to checking, you'll need to keep two things in mind – the right analog stick for directional effect, and your own momentum. Utilizing the Infinity Engine, the game does a better job building a player's speed on the ice. If you run into an opposing player with a general speed boost, chances are you'll hit them pretty good and regain control of the puck. However, you'll also want to use the right analog stick to lean into them, creating a more effective check and guaranteeing the puck is yours as a result.
Poke checks are also a great way to get the puck back if you don't feel like being physical, or aren't always promised the check you're going for. Using the poke check, you can slip the puck loose and regain control of it. In addition, you can also check someone into the boards, leaning into them and trying to jar the puck loose to a waiting team mate. Puck control is everything, but making it accessible is half the battle.
Finally, don't be afraid to check someone if they're attempting to get a shot on your goal. This is hockey, after all, and you have to defend your team any way you see fit – even if it means laying someone out and having their enforcers come after you. Hockey is a physical sport, so make the most of it and send someone to the cleaners. BOOM.
Hey, You, Wanna Fight?
Fighting has been upgraded quite a bit over previous NHL games. No longer are you stuck in the awkward first-person viewpoint. Instead, you get to see what's happening around your two fighting players – and you even get to see the gloves come off for it. It's an exciting moment, but you'll want to make sure you’re ready for it.
Punches are executed using the right analog stick, but you'll want to make sure you're not repeatedly tapping it. Some brawlers are better than others, and will see when you're coming with consistent punches. Use the right trigger button to lean back and avoid incoming swings, then counter-attack accordingly once you see an opening. Execute your moves just right and you'll leave an opponent hurting.
It might take you a few fights to learn your winning ways, but remember that there's no shame as long as you don't run away from the fight.
Faceoffs are Your Friend
When it comes to winning shootouts, try to keep an eye out for the best open slot. If you're facing off on the right side of the rink, for instance, try and pass off the puck to the left to a waiting man.
Also, don't be afraid to get your stick in there and fight for the puck. Again, it's hockey, and you want to show your pure aggression when it comes to getting control of the puck.
Good luck, and we'll see you on the ice!
NHL 14 is available now for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.